Today we have a guest post from Titus Alexander, founder of Democracy Matters. He can be reached at titus [at] democracymatters [dot] info.
Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of nationalism in China, India, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and many European states, are seismic events in world politics. They have revealed deep divisions in our societies and chart radically different pathways for our future. They also serve as a wake-up call for educational institutions to play a more active role in strengthening democracy. To do this, political education needs to fulfil three key tasks:
- Expose the evidence
President-elect Trump made 560 false statements during his campaign, according to Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale and Factcheck.org. Professor Jay Rosen of New York University reflected on the ‘retreat from empiricism’ in politics and the press from Bush to Trump on Pressthink.org.
Experts do get it wrong. They disagree. They debate facts and what they mean. But the fundamental principle of honest inquiry is as important in politics as it is to physics. Researchers must challenge ‘post-truth’ politics to ensure that public debate is grounded in evidence. Continue reading
Here is the third installment of L. Dee Fink’s course design method. Readers may want to consult Part 1 and Part 2, or my book review. In this post I will be looking at final details.
How am I going to grade?
I am going to jump to a 2,000 point scale for calculating course grades, partly because of a new rubric for reading responses. I will also need to build rubrics for the activities related to game design. I will let students evaluate each other’s collaborative skills through the usual teammate evaluations.
By looking back at the primary components that I identified in Part 1, I can see that I forgot about the need to assess the civic engagement project. In the USA, most students won’t care about or complete tasks that are not graded. Continue reading
Here is the second installment of using L. Dee Fink’s method of course design. In the first installment, I ran through the first phase of the process, identifying primary components. Now I’ll be assembling those components into a coherent whole by aligning the course’s schedule and topics with what students will be doing.
What topics will I introduce? (thematic structure)
I am using travel as a unifying theme that introduces students to:
- Identity politics.
- Personal transformation.
- Conflict, prejudice, and injustice.
- Global interconnectedness.
What will students need to do? (instructional strategies) Continue reading
Last week, I covered some ways you might tackle the current state of British politics, after the EU referendum.
Following that, I’ve had some conversations about running a joint simulation during the autumn semester, across institutions, so if you’d be interested in joining that, then drop me a line (s.usherwoodATsurrey.ac.uk) and we’ll see what we can work up.
This is a good example of how you can manage bigger subjects – by working with partners in other institutions – albeit with some associated transaction costs. The upside is not simply more bodies to take on roles, but also the introduction of a dynamic that gets students speaking to strangers, remotely, which is not untypical of political negotiations.
Putting that to one side, I’d liek to briefly consider yet another avenue for teaching Brexit, namely a more legal approach. Continue reading
As promised, here is the first in a series of posts in which I apply Fink’s method to the design a specific course. The method is a simple mental exercise that forces one to think of a course as a system. Fink divides the process into three phases; this post will outline the first, which is to identify primary components. Please note that Fink uses a reverse order for the third and fourth items. In my mind, what gets assessed comes before how it gets assessed, but I will leave it up to you to decide whether it is better to stick with the sequence as Fink presents it in his book.
Where am I? (situational factors)
This will be my third iteration of teaching a first-year seminar to entering college students, but my subject — human migration — is new. Because of academic and personal interests over the years, I have some familiarity with immigration and refugees. Also I’m a first generation college student who might be able to teach skills that will help first-year students be academically successful. So I’m enthusiastic about teaching the seminar.
About eighty percent of students in the class will enroll because it fit their schedules. Other than perhaps two or three students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, the class will have no prior knowledge to build on and little initial interest in the topic. A major challenge thus will be motivating students to engage with lived experiences and perspectives that are very different from their own. And guess what? Retention is critical at a tuition-dependent institution like mine.
Where do I want to go? (learning goals) Continue reading
A follow-up post about the mechanical aspects of civic engagement projects, based on my experiences over previous semester:
- If students are working in teams, each team should start with at least four students. Five is even better. In a team of three people, two often pair off for decision making and the third person becomes passive. Or one of the three drops the class, and the remaining two are invariably weak students who pull down each other’s performance.
- The necessity of forming teams of adequate size means that certain classes might be too small for this kind of project, especially if you want teams to compete against each other. You will also need to scaffold team output around individually-completed assignments to prevent free riders. Both kinds of student work will need to be assessed transparently.
This semester I have formally incorporated a civic engagement project into one of my courses — students have partnered with local business owners to learn about the production and consumption of global commodities. I am new to community partnerships, and I have already learned some useful lessons about communication, expectations, and pedagogical design: